I am a relatively young faculty member. I was asked to provide a reference for a student of mine so he is admitted in a PhD program in Sciences in UK. The student is probably one of the best students I had in a couple of years in terms of academic potential. I firmly believe he will do well as he is bright and hard-working.
I have to fill in an online form rating him. My problem is that the form's scaling is very strong.
How can I honestly say that someone was
outstanding (3%) and not
exceptional (1%)? Even the third most positive option is
unusually good (rated at 10%) which I feel as a characterization in itself should be strong enough for someone to be at least considered for a PhD.
My classes are never above 40 to 45 students and I believe that simply "lumping" all the students from my past couple of years in one sample is ineffective and unreasonable. I would probably be unable to single out one of my students as the single best student I've ever had so that I can place him in the top 1% interval with certainty and not top 3%.
As I said, I want to support him and I worry that simply putting him down as
outstanding would harm him as other referees might be tempted to "max out" everything. On the other hand simply rating him as
exceptional in almost all aspects would be just grade-inflation.
Could someone provide me with some advice on the matter and what they would do? The scaling I have come across before topped at 5% which I found reasonable but here this not the case.